In addition to the model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes that White Americans apply to East Asians of any sex, there are two more that apply just to women:
- The China Doll stereotype – from geisha girls to mail-order brides, this stereotype views East Asian women as beautiful, quiet, “ultra-feminine” and always willing to serve their man! It seems to mainly grow out of American men’s experiences with prostitutes in East Asia, a place where America has long fought wars and maintained military bases. Examples from fiction: Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon, Suzie Wong.
- The Dragon Lady stereotype – East Asian women as evil, mean and untrustworthy and yet physically desirable, often with great legs. In the 1930s Milton Caniff fleshed out this stereotype in his “Terry and the Pirates” stories, where the term “Dragon Lady” first appeared. Caniff based his Dragon Lady on Lai Choi San, a Chinese pirate queen of the South China Sea in the 1920s. Examples: many of the characters played by Anna May Wong in the 1920s and Lucy Liu in our own time. It is a common Hollywood stereotype.
Both China Dolls and Dragon Ladies are good in bed, better than white women. And, get this, they want to sleep with white men! But be careful – while one is good, the other is evil!
Common stereotyped qualities of East Asian women:
- Exotic: Their difference in looks and presumed culture is viewed as a good thing, as making them special, better than the “ordinary” women of one’s own race or country. It gives them an air of mystery. The truth is, there is no such thing as an exotic woman. After all, in Thailand Thai women are not exotic at all – they are just ordinary women.
- Better at sex: Asians are stereotyped as having “secrets” and “ancient wisdom”, so this is sometimes seen as extending to sex too. It is unclear how something like that could be kept secret for long, especially in the Internet Age.
- Willingness to please men: both in bed and out. “Me love you long time,” and so on. American men suppose this is because feminism has not yet reached East Asia. What they forget is that in many instances there is a huge power imbalance. Many of the East Asian women that American men have dealt with – prostitutes, war brides and mail-order brides – are poor. Their willingness to please American men comes not so much from a lack of feminism as from a lack of money.
- Highly intelligent and hard-working – from the model minority stereotype.
- From a foreign culture – even if they grew up in America! This comes from the perpetual foreigner stereotype where, say, a Korean American is more likely to be seen as “Asian”, “Korean” or even “Chinese” than as simply “American”.
The strange thing is, East Asian women seem more desirable when viewed through these racist stereotypes than when they are seen simply as the women they are!